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Not all Bowdoin College students will return to the Brunswick campus this fall as administrators prepare for the coronavirus to continue disrupting academic life for months to come.
College President Clayton Rose said Monday in a message to the campus community that only first-year and transfer students, those unable to attend online classes, senior honors students who need access to campus for approved projects and student residential life staff will return to campus this fall.
Sophomores, juniors and seniors will take their courses remotely, but may return to campus next spring as first-year and transfer students continue classes remotely, Rose said.
Even as students return to campus, most classes will still be held online, with the exception of first-year writing seminars, according to Rose. Those students on campus must wear face coverings, maintain physical distance and practice good hygiene.
Fall classes begin on Sept. 2 and end on Dec. 21. Students will be sent home before Thanksgiving and then finish their classes remotely.
Rose called the first semester a “critical time” for first-year and transfer students, saying it gives them time to develop relationships in the campus community and acclimate to college life. By limiting the number of students at the Brunswick campus, Rose said it will allow the college to test safety protocols that “give us the best chance to bring seniors, juniors, and sophomores back to campus in the spring.”
Bowdoin’s campus has been largely closed to students and the public since mid-March, when the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Maine. Bowdoin became the first Maine university to close its campus to further halt the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
In announcing the decision to continue holding most classes online, Rose said it was “too risky” to bring all students back to campus given the lack of a coronavirus vaccine and many unknowns about the virus remain.
“We are not only protecting the health and safety of students with these plans, we are, critically, also protecting our faculty and staff — especially our dining service workers, facilities staff, and security staff, all of whom have close day-to-day interaction with students. And we are also protecting our neighbors in Brunswick,” Rose said.
Given the unprecedented economic slump brought on by coronavirus-related restrictions, Rose said there will be no tuition increase for the upcoming fall semester and room-and-board fees will be reduced for the period when students will be sent home. The cost for on-campus students will be $33,935 and for off-campus students $27,911.
Bowdoin also faces a large financial impact from the coronavirus, with a budget deficit that Rose called “the largest we have ever had by a significant margin.” Earlier this year, Rose said the school expects to lose more than $20 million during the upcoming school year. That is equal to 15 percent of the expected operating budget for the 2020-2021 academic year. The final losses are expected to be well in excess of those Bowdoin saw during the Great Recession.
“Bowdoin is fortunate to have strong financial resources to cover much of the deficit, but we will also have to implement several cost-cutting measures for the coming academic year, with those making the most contributing the most,” Rose said.
Rose noted his salary has been cut more than 20 percent. Senior officers face a 10 percent pay cut, while salaries will be frozen for most others. Retirement contributions will be halved starting in September and lasting to the end of the academic year.
Still, despite the financial impact Bowdoin anticipates, Rose said there will be no furloughs and the college will honor a commitment to raise its hourly wage for staff to $14.